After writing this, I actually think it is a much longer work waiting to happen.
“You are visionary today, make the most of this by carefully thinking through your major decisions. Someone will attempt to reach you on a meaningful level, be open to their words, do not rush your response. Someone special will make you smile. Your lucky number today is 8.”
I put down the paper, never believing the words in front of me. How could a horoscope predetermine your life, let alone mine? And yet, somehow, my life is more determined by those words than others. That horoscope had shaped by adult life, helped pay my rent, assisted my travel, and made my day.
I am the writer of the horoscope.
More than anyone else, I know this is fake. I lied to get the job. Alright, it was a tough market when I graduated. No one was taking recent graduates as reporters or journalists. I faced a horrid truth, a real truth, or as I would have written, “a crucial decision will shape your life, think carefully about what is offered to you today.” Not that anyone offered.
I just returned home. I grew up on a small farm where Dad raised heritage pigs, and Mother made preserves and table runners, selling her goods at local markets. My days were filled with pickling spices, country air, fields of wheat, sunkissed shoulders and nothing but time and space. At college I discovered the coldness of the city, the dankness of the night, and the way everyone rushed around as though they were living out the last few days of their death sentence.
Home was difficult after returning from the city. Dad expected me to walk into a national paper straight away, and when I didn’t he assumed it was because I had spent 4 years becoming depraved, sullying my good name and besperching my reputation. Mother simply relished the idea of me at home, now I could be married off to her country club sect. She had become the secretary of the Women’s Association in my absence, and now I was back, she put me to work.
“This is the newsletter. We share ideas and recipes, don’t forget to run them past Maryellen because last winter we ran a story on plum jam, which she noted was incorrect as the setting agents didn’t have time to work. This page is from the president, always include a picture of her in the garden. She likes it to be seasonal. And the back page is always a bit of fun. We have a crossword, see Mr. Preece the butcher as he likes to contribute a few questions each month, and a horoscope. You’ll have to write that, and a few inspirational or humourous quotes. Nothing from politicians, you know how that divides the members. Any questions? Good. I have to arrange the flowers for the benefit gala.”
She had been a flurry of words, a hive of activity, then absent, leaving me with the South Western Women’s Association Newsletter. So I compiled the newsletter for 2 years, all the time wanting to get out of the house, and away from Taylor Preston, whom Mother had tirelessly worked to marry me to.
It only took one edition before Susie, a young mother with wealthy connections, came running up to me to tell me that I was right. I still have no idea what I was right about, but I smiled and told her it was all part of the ‘greater destiny’ and it was ‘written in the stars’. Over the next few months, many more women spoke, asking for personal guidance, of which I denied, saying it was ‘ethically a grey area’ to advise a reader privately. That’s when I enrolled in the Community College, picking up papers in both Astronomy and Astrology. Mainly as I still didn’t know which was which. I bought a set of tarot cards that I worked on my one handed shuffling technique with, carried at the bottom of my hand bag, spilt tea on and read a dummies guide to tarot reading, incase I was put on the spot. I started wearing long flowing maxi dresses and sandals, and grew my hair out.
The latter definitely concerned Mother, though Dad found it hillarious. I spent my spare time wandering the farm in gumboots, mucking out the pigs and reconnecting with him. One morning in the stalls he fell over, clutching his left arm. He had a massive heart attack, which I really should have foresaw, afterall, I had predicted, “take medical concerns seriously, ask for a second opinion,” and “someone you love will embark on a new journey.” After the funeral I was afraid that Mother’s plans had taken over my life when Taylor Preston, Esquire, asked if I would do him the honour of becoming his wife. That wasn’t in my horoscope, so I fled.
This time the city seemed less harsh, more forgiving. I found an apartment with a rooftop garden, intermittant shortages of hot water, and a fabulous policy on pet ownership. I had applied for a job as a journalist with everything from the Wall Street Journal to Gardeners Home Digest, with no success. Sadly I found my services as a horoscope writer to be in demand. Heading up to the massive office on the top floor, wearing the flowingest garb and jewelery covered in stars, I received strange looks and knowing glances.
“We would like to offer you a position here, if you would like to work with us. Daily horoscopes and a weekly advice column. What do you think?” What did I think? Honestly I couldn’t believe I was being offered the chance to name my price for something that took very little effort on my part. The biggest challenge would be finding a hippy supply store.
So I took the job, writing fortunes and sharing dreams. The praise pours in, I have devoted followers. I earn more than the top journalist in the paper now, because my contract allows for me to supply advice from the stars to others, including a website, a fung shui interior design company, and I lecture at a private college just out of the city limits.
Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to accept the proposal, what it would be like to be Mrs. Taylor Preston, Esquire, and whether I would cheer on Taylor III at his little league games. It would just be another fake lifestyle, one where others would marvel at how lucky I had it, how beautiful the house/children/dinner setting is, holidaying in the Hamptons.
The irony is how I have written a novel. It has been published, under a pseudonym.
One day I will wake up, and write my last horoscope. I will not foretell or predict anything about my future. I’ll walk out the door, and hop on a plane. When I land, I can finally be just me. It doesn’t matter where I go, because I have to find myself. The only place I can possibly be is somewhere else, somewhere where the truth is not found in families, on pages or in the stars. All I really know is that the place probably has a pig or two.