I was in a strange (to me) part of town. Id been driving
on the freeway when I saw that my gas tank was nearly empty. I pulled off and
drove around until I found a gas station, off-brand, at the end of a seedy
strip mall. After Id filled up, just out of curiosity, I cruised down the
mall. Half of the storefronts were empty. There was a martial arts place and a
tattoo parlor. Then I noticed that the sign in one said Fortune
Teller. You didnt see fortune tellers in my part of town. As it
happened, Id been struggling the last few weeks to make a decision on an
important matter. I decided to see what the fortune teller had to say about it.
The store was dark and had a strange smell. I thought that
possibly no one was there, then a hoarse voice from the back said, Come
in. As I advanced I saw a woman seated behind a table. There was no
crystal ball or deck of cards on the table, just a half-eaten apple. The woman
was wrapped in what might have been an old bathrobe, with a kerchief around her
head. Her face was dark and lined; I couldnt tell how old she was. She
might have been 100. Sit, she said.
I sat and started to speak but she forestalled me. You do
not ordinarily come to places like this, she said. You live in the
nice part of town. You are an executive. You are ambitious and want badly to
I wasnt overly impressed. She could have deduced this from
my expensive suit and freshly polished shoes. So why an I here?
That is obvious. Youve been trying to make up your
mind about something. You thought youd see what an old gypsy lady had to
What am I trying to make up my mind about?
That too is obvious. A woman, of course. She paused
and looked out in space. Yes, a woman. She is one of these new woman. She
is beautiful but also very smart. She too is ambitious. She wants a career of
her own. You want to know if you should marry this woman.
This was all true. Was there something about my manner that told
her? Maybe in practicing her craft shed become very perceptive.
Should I ask her to marry me?
You should not. Your ambitions would clash. Soon you would
be arguing. You need another kind of woman, an old-fashioned one.
But I love her. Im pretty sure I do anyway.
Sometimes the heart is not the best guide to
I thanked her and gave her a twenty dollar bill. Of course I
didnt take her advice. She was just an old lady in some seedy strip mall.
Unfortunately, she was right. I went ahead and married Angela. After a year of
relative contentment, she was offered a promotion in another city. She wanted
to take it. If I went with her Id have to leave my own job and start all
over again. As the fortune teller had predicted, we argued and this eventually
led to a divorce.
When Id seen how perceptive the fortune teller was
Id planned to ask her for some investment advice. Then I remembered the
half-eaten apple on her table and took this for a sign. I bought as much Apple
stock as I could. This was before the iPhone and the iPad, so this turned out
better than my marriage. After my divorce I tried to find that strip mall
again. It took me a while but I finally found that off-brand gas station and
then the mall, which didnt look quite as seedy. Theyd been doing
some renovation in this neighborhood. But the fortune teller was gone. In her
place was one of those unisex barber shops, Super Duper Clipping or something
I went in and asked a pretty Asian woman who was the manager if
she knew where the fortune teller might have gone. She had no idea. She told me
I needed a haircut and said shed do it herself. While she worked we
chatted. She was Vietnamese and had been in this country for about a year. She
spoke excellent English and she said shed gone to a Catholic school.
After she was done, on an impulse I asked if I could buy her a cup of coffee,
or tea. There was also a new coffee shop in the mall. One thing led to another
and were now married, happily. Mae Ling was happy to give up her
hair-cutting business and become the wife of a relatively wealthy executive.
Shes an excellent hostess. Again, the fortune teller was proved right; I
needed an old-fashioned girl.