Good news. During the next three days, there will be vast improvements in the physical, marital and financial aspects of my life. No kidding. I get this straight from the spirit world.
The messenger was not Shirley MacLaine but Mary Adams, who is the mother of Doreena, oracle of Santa Monica Pier.
She was not specific about my physical and marital improvements, but I took her forecast to mean I would grow taller and younger and be less inclined to debate feminist politics with my wife.
Mary delivered her prediction while seated at a table behind a crystal ball, a statue of the Virgin Mary and a plaque that said "Support Your Local Police." Her message: Perfect satisfaction is on the way.
"Dec. 18, 19 and 20 are your lucky days," she said, pleased that she could bring me such good news. "You will get a big promotion. There will be a lot of money."
"I could sure use that," I said.
Mary nodded wisely. "I know."
She was reading my palm. She also employs Tarot cards and the aforementioned crystal ball to decipher psychic impulses that foretell the future.
When I asked what the difference was between the three methods, Mary replied that reading a palm was $3, a Tarot-card reading was $10 and a look into the crystal ball cost $25.
There was a special on palms, she added. Two for $5.
"That isn't exactly what I mean," I said. "What's the difference between reading a palm and using the crystal ball?"
It was difficult to hear. Just outside her office, a dim-eyed teen-aged boy was playing rap music fortissimo on a giant ghetto blaster. Run-D M C or L L Cool J. One of the cultural giants.
I considered asking Mary if she could cast a curse on the noisy fool, but turning a kid with a ghetto blaster into a pig with a ghetto blaster would be somewhat excessive, I suppose, and wouldn't really solve the problem.
"The crystal ball is a deep look into the future," Mary said. "It will clear up all your confusion and tell you about your marriage and your business."
"But you did that just reading my palm," I said.
Mary shrugged. "I gave you a little extra."
Normally, Doreena runs the shop. She has been on the pier for 28 years, looking into the futures of such notables as Robert Redford and Shelley Winters.
"Many television producers come in, too," Mary said.
That doesn't surprise me. I know some producers who conduct their whole lives on the basis of dreams and psychic vibrations. They think of network meetings as out-of-body experiences.
Mary's office is in two sections, both tiny. Couches with an artificial leather covering fill a waiting room brightened by artificial roses.
Inside the main room is the reading table, a bottled water stand and a television set. There is also an unpainted statue of a wizard with a pointed cap on the floor, staring at an open book in his hands.
Mary fills in occasionally for her daughter, which is why she was telling fortunes the day I happened along. She is a solidly built woman with jet-black hair pulled tightly back and a rose tattoo on her left forearm.
"What's the tattoo for?" I asked.
I thought it might have arcane psychic meaning.
"I got it for 50 cents in Sacramento when I was 12," she said, shaking her head sadly. "My father whipped me and told me to have it taken off, but they couldn't. I was a damned fool."
She went back to my palm.
"You have a long lifeline," she said. "You will live past 96."
I'm not sure that's my idea of heaven. I don't want to be an old man shuffling around town with my fly unzipped and my shoes untied.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Positive," Mary said, annoyed at my need for affirmation.
She discovered as a child that she had the gift of clairvoyance. It came to her in a flash.
"How?" I asked.
"I saw the future of a woman," Mary said. "I saw she was going to get married and she did. I saw she would have a good life and she did."
I waited for more.
"That's it?" I finally said.
Mary nodded. "Doreena has the gift too. Very few people have the gift."
"What about your husband?"
"No," she said, "he's a landlord."
I asked if she ever told anyone there was bad luck ahead. For instance, that they would fall dead the minute they stepped from her office.
"That's what they pay their money for, to find out," Mary said. "If they're sick, they're sick."
"What do you tell them?"
"I tell them to see a doctor right away," she said.
She studied my palm again.
"You've had a lot of problems in the past," she said.
"That's for sure."
"Don't worry. They're all over." She peered closer. "But that promotion I promised?"
It won't come this month. In January, maybe."
She pushed back my palm. "Come back anytime," she said.
"I will," I said.
Mary nodded again. "I know."